Washington police officer charged over allegedly aiding Proud Boys leader

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The head of an intelligence unit of the Washington, D.C., police department faces criminal charges after allegedly warning the leader of the far-right Proud Boys group about an arrest warrant and leaking other law enforcement information, an indictment released on Friday showed.

Metropolitan Police Department Lieutenant Shane Lamond gave Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio confidential information about an investigation into the 2020 burning of a "Black Lives Matter" banner stolen from a church in the U.S. capital and later told him that he faced arrest in the matter, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Lamond, who supervised the Intelligence Branch of the police department's Homeland Security Bureau, also made false and misleading statements to federal law enforcement agents about his communications with Tarrio, the Justice Department said.

A federal grand jury indicted Lamond, who was arrested on Friday, on one count of obstruction of justice and three counts of making false statements. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.

The police department said Lamond, who has worked for the force for 24 years, was placed on administrative leave in February 2022 because of the U.S. investigation.

His lawyer, Mark Schamel, said in a statement that Lamond's job "required contact with extremist groups who sought to undermine our democracy on January 6th, yet he does not, nor has he ever, supported their views." Schamel said the evidence at trial would show the allegations were "unfairly levied."

According to the indictment, Lamond and Tarrio had been in regular contact since 2019. Prosecutors disclosed communications between the two including a text exchange after the 2020 presidential election in which Democrat Joe Biden defeated then-President Donald Trump.

Lamond wrote, "Hey brother, sad, sad news today. You all planning anything."

"Yep," Tarrio responded.

Tarrio pleaded guilty to charges in the Black Lives banner case and in 2021 was sentenced to five months in prison.

A jury in a separate case this month convicted Tarrio and other members of the Proud Boys of seditious conspiracy involving the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.

(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Leslie Adler)